Dirk Hartog's plate being exhibited at Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery

UNIQUE: QVMAG's Jon Addison, Rijksmuseum's Tamar Davidowitz and QVMAG's David Thurrowgood with Dirk Hartog's plate. Picture: Phillip Biggs
UNIQUE: QVMAG's Jon Addison, Rijksmuseum's Tamar Davidowitz and QVMAG's David Thurrowgood with Dirk Hartog's plate. Picture: Phillip Biggs

The oldest European object ever found on Australian soil is on display in Launceston.

The artefact was left behind by Dutch mariners, the first confirmed Europeans to see Western Australia, in 1616.

As captain of the Dutch East India Company ship De Eendracht, Dirk Hartog nailed the flattened pewter dish to a pole with an inscription to mark his landing.

QVMAG history curator Jon Addison said the plate stayed on the island near Shark Bay for 80 years until Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh arrived in early 1697.

“He made landfall at the same spot and found the plate, the post had fallen over, it was buried in sand,” Mr Addison said.

“He actually removed it, flattened another plate, inscribed it with exactly the same inscription that you find on this one plus added the details of their voyage and their senior crew. 

“They took [Dirk Hartog’s plate] back to Batavia with them and from there it was shipped by the East India Company back to Amsterdam.”

It has been on display at a national museum in the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum, ever since.

Now, 400 years since since Hartog left the inscribed plate in Australia, it has returned and is on tour.

QVMAG is the last museum to exhibit the artefact before it is taken back to the Netherlands by Rijksmuseum metals conservator Tamar Davidowitz.

While it is in Australia the plate will be studied collaboratively by QVMAG conservator David Thurrowgood and Ms Davidowitz.

They plan to travel to the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne to collect x-ray fluorescence images of the plate.

The results of the scan are expected to give valuable information about its current condition, which is largely due to the long exposure to extreme weather, to assist in the plate’s preservation.

The scan will also help to understand the material composition of the plate and could potentially reveal surface details that have not previously been visible.

The plate will be at QVMAG Royal Park from November 10 to 26.